University of Utah Hospital bars police officers from interacting with frontline staff following nurse arrest

University of Utah Hospital updated its policy for police interactions the day after an officer arrested a nurse who refused to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient. It now requires police officers to interact directly with the hospital supervisor.

The policy was officially put in place in mid-August following the incident in late July, reports The Salt Lake Tribune. The arrest made headlines last week after the nurse, Alex Wubbels, and her attorney released body camera footage that shows her interactions with the Salt Lake City police officer.

Salt Lake City detective Jeff Payne asked Wubbels to draw blood from a patient on the burn ward for the investigation into a fiery car accident; however, the patient was unconscious and unable to consent to a blood draw, and the police did not have a search warrant. When Wubbels refused to comply with the officer’s request, she was handcuffed and put into a patrol car, reports Salt Lake City news station KSL.

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Gordon Crabtree, University of Utah Health's interim CEO, said in a press conference Monday that Wubbels followed its patient privacy policies and “handled the situation with utmost courage and integrity.”

Crabtree and Chief Nursing Officer Margaret Pearce, Ph.D., laid out the hospital’s updated policies at the press conference. Officers will not interact with nurses or other frontline staff and instead must meet with the hospital supervisor. Law enforcement officials will also not be allowed to enter certain areas of the hospital like the emergency department, burn ward or other patient areas.

“We have to make sure this never, ever happens again,” Pearce said.

Pearce said there were three goals for the updated policy, according to National Public Radio:

  1. Allow frontline staff to focus on their usual work.
  2. Avoid disputes like this from occurring in patient areas.
  3. Ensure that only people with the appropriate training handle police issues.

Crabtree said the incident at University of Utah Hospital should prompt other hospitals to reexamine and update their policies for police interactions, NPR reports.

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Executives at the hospital have also had to take time to comfort and support “traumatized” nurses and staff members, in addition to Wubbels herself. Hospital leaders must be prepared to provide needed emotional support to team members during trying times.

Wubbels was not charged with a crime, and has not filed legal action against the police department, according to KSL. Video footage from the body camera is embedded below: